Some thoughts on Stones Throw Records and using the current dominance of catalog music to highlight new releases.
Much has been made of MRC Data’s report that catalog/older music comprised 69.8% of Total Album Consumption in the United States in 2021. This is distressing news if you’re looking to make your way into a very saturated record industry.
It’s important to not look away from these figures. Artists with a significant back catalog have an advantage in today’s market, especially if their material is well-known. However, it’s also important for new artists not fall into hopelessness and despair.
Humans are naturally curious. With the advent of Bandcamp, Discogs, streaming, and social media, it has never been easier to deep dive down multiple musical rabbit holes. It’s so easy to become consumed with exploring the earlier work of one artist or label instead of seeking out talented but largely unknown new artists. As listeners, sometimes we just want something familiar.
Though balancing the scales evenly between new and old music seems a long way off, I think there are opportunities for artists, curators, labels, etc. to use the popularity of catalog music to draw listener’s attention to new releases.
Let’s take a look at Peanut Butter Wolf’s beloved label Stones Throw Records as a case study. According to the Discogs’ tally, Stones Throw has released a massive amount of EPs, LPs, and singles in 26 years of existence. Some of the entries in Discogs repeat so it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact number, but their catalog is gigantic. In addition to the many ways they already connect with their incredibly passionate fanbase, Stones Throw could use a variety of methods to share new and old music together on social media. I’ll share a few ideas I have below.
They could select one song per year of existence and create a 26-song playlist of some of the label’s finest work on streaming platforms. They could then make a thread where the lead tweet features a link to the playlist and each subsequent tweet includes the album cover and accompanying song for each year. This playlist could take listeners on a journey from Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf’s “My World Premiere” (the label’s first release) all the way to J.Rocc’s new album A Wonderful Letter, with so many interesting stops along the way.
Stones Throw also has a reputation for striking cover art and a very creative overall aesthetic. Once again they could use this to their advantage by sharing album covers on Instagram and Twitter from their early years of existence followed by posts of new releases. I’ve seen firsthand how much interest (25 retweets and 167 likes) one 14-year-old Madlib album cover can generate. Given the hundreds and hundreds of covers at their disposal, Stones Throw could easily remind fans of past releases while also drawing their attention to current stuff by frequently alternating between old and new.
It’s hard to say how much this social media strategy would impact streams and sales, but it would certainly help create additional enthusiasm and discussion around the label’s ever-expanding catalog of work. I can only imagine how much activity tweeting out the Donuts and Madvillainy covers would generate on Twitter considering Stones Throw has over 150,000 followers. These tweets could then be followed up by album covers of new releases by folks like Stimulator Jones, Kiefer, and Koreatown Oddity.
I’ve been told before that some of these ideas I pitch seem like the musings of an outsider with no label experience, but I would honestly love to see Stones Throw or any other label give my suggestions a try. I truly believe the current interest in catalog music can be used to direct people’s attention to new releases and vice verses in an ongoing cycle.